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When you think of movements born in San Francisco in the late ‘60s, the high-performance outerwear movement probably isn’t at the top of your list. That is, however, exactly when and where it all began. Back then, Alpinists were forced to use equipment they picked up from the local Army surplus store. There were hardly any manufacturers focused on outdoor equipment in the private sector. That was about to change in a big way.
In 1966, Doug Tompkins and his wife Susie decided to open a high-end ski and camping gear storefront at 308 Columbus Avenue in San Francisco's North Beach. They called their shop The North Face, a nod to the storied face of the Eiger and one of the most difficult climbs in the Northern Hemisphere. The store quickly became a hangout for local outdoor enthusiasts, and the legend was born.
In 1968, Kenneth ‘Hap’ Klopp acquired The North Face and shifted the company’s focus from retail sales to the design and manufacture of outdoor clothing and equipment. The first manufacturing facility was squeezed into the back of The North Face store in Berkeley. Just a year later, a full-blown factory was opened to produce specialized gear and outerwear.
Having established itself as a leader in outdoor apparel and equipment, The North Face began to sponsor expeditions to far flung, untouched locations at every corner of the globe. This launched a proud tradition of exploration that has continued for more than 50 years and solidified the brand’s standing as a leader in the outdoor industry.
By the early ’80s, The North Face had expanded its product offering to the world of extreme skiing. Jackets, pants, gloves, and even beanies from The North Face were designed to withstand the harshest weather on the most unforgiving peaks in the world—a far cry from the mostly basic offerings from other manufacturers. By the end of the decade, The North Face became the only supplier in the United States to offer a comprehensive collection of high-performance outerwear, skiwear, sleeping bags, backpacks, and tents.
The North Face entered the sportswear market in the ‘90s with its Tekware line. This innovative collection was designed to provide rock climbers, backpackers, hikers, trail runners, and outdoor enthusiasts with the ultimate fit and function. As the ‘90s drew to a close, the Half-Dome logo was a common sight at ultra-marathons. In response, The North Face launched its own line of trekking and trail-running shoes to complement its hiking, backpacking, and winter boots and to outfit the outdoor enthusiast from head to toe.
Today, almost 50 years since its humble beginnings in San Francisco, the North Face offers an extensive line of men’s and women’s outdoor gear and clothing. Whether you’re looking for a hat, a windbreaker, a down jacket, or even an expedition shelter for a month at basecamp high in the Himalayas, The North Face can provide you with gear built to meet your needs and much more.